Monday, October 11, 2010

Sweet and Sour Pork

I love a good sweet and sour pork dish. Sweet and sour chicken or even shrimp. Unfortunately, often restaurants will smother the ingredients of the stir fry in a super sweet, sticky, bright red food colored sauce. All you can taste is the sauce which oozes all over the place and covers anything else on your plate with sweet and sour sauce.

The sauce in this recipe is sweet and sour without being gloppy. You don't want to drown the ingredients: just lightly coating them in the sauce is best.

This is a recipe that was given to me about 25 years ago by my Aunt Rachel. Her huband was a Colonel in the Air Force and they spent quite some time stationed in the Orient. Japan, Guam, Phillipines. As the wife of an officer, she had quite some time to be a dillitante. The other bored out of their minds women would take classes to while away the time and to learn new and exciting skills, like silk flower making and arranging (seriously......they did). She also, to my great benefit, spent some time in each location learning the local cuisine. Consequently, I have some awesome and authentic recipies.

Stir frying is not hard as long as you realize that preparation is key.

Slicing the ingredients and sorting into piles according to cooking times. (See below in the instructions)

The meat and sauce are prepared ahead of time.

The final cooking takes place in a very few short minutes in a spectacular fashion when you begin tossing into the sizzling wok the ingredients. Tossing and turning with abandon. This is a great meal for a party because it can almost all be prepared in advance and your cooking technique will impress your guests.


Batter1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbs beaten egg
1/2 cup water

Sweet and Sour Sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup pineapple juice
4 Tbs catsup
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 lb pork, cubed
1 small red pepper, cut in 1" cubes
1 small onion, cut into 1" cubes
1 large carrot, sliced
1 cup pineapple chunks (completely drained if using canned)

1. BATTER for pork: Mix the dry ingredients together and gradually add the water and beaten egg until it reaches the desired thickness. It should be thicker than pancake batter but not as thick as a dough batter. Set aside until ready to fry the pork.

2. SWEET AND SOUR: Add all ingredients together in a small sauce pan and stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce is clear and thick should take approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Keep stirring and be patient the sauce will suddenly become translucent. Set aside in the pan. If you are making the sauce a day ahead: cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and bring back to a warm temperature before using. You don't want to put cold sauce into your HOT wok.

3. VEGETABLES: Have pre prepared various vegetables cut into approximately equal sizes. This is a very free form type of cooking. You can use many different types of vegetables, but the most common are listed in the ingredients above. You can also use mushrooms halved. Bok Choy, Red Pepper, Green Pepper, Carrots or what ever you would like. The sizes should be the same to ensure even cooking. Segregate the vegetables into piles according to hardness or how quickly they will cook. For instance the mushrooms and the tops of Bok Choy will cook quickly the bottoms of the Bok Choy, onion, etc will take a longer time to stir fry.

4. Heat oil to a depth of 1 inch in a fry pan or wok (preferred). Dip the pork cubes into the batter and deep fry in small batches for 3 to 5 minutes or until the pork is cooked through and the batter is crispy. Turn the cubes over with chopsticks or a fork to make sure they get crispy on all sides. Drain on paper towels. In the same wok, drain most of the oil. Begin stir frying the vegetables beginning with the hardest or longest cooking. When the vegetables are crisp/tender add back the fried pork cubes. Stir fry until they are warm. Add the pineapple and toss briefly. Add the sauce and stir fry and toss until heated through. This should only take a minute or so.

Served with a side of steamed rice. Serves 6 people.

Notes: I don't care for green peppers so I will substitute red peppers. Pretty much any firm types of vegetables you like can be used. Do not use summer squash, they will turn to mush. If you do want to experiment with mushrooms just add them at the very last, with the meat and before adding the sauce. The catsup isn't exactly a traditional Chinese ingredient, but it works well in this sauce.

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